Types of Fertilizer

Written by Brooke Tolman (last updated September 29, 2021)


Plants need nutrients to stay alive. It's as simple as that, but those necessary nutrients aren't always readily available. Nutrients don't stay long in the soil and need to be replenished regularly. Each nutrient plays an important role in plant growth and survival and that's where fertilizer comes in. Fertilizer is a means of supplying these nutrients.

The nutrients that your plants need are divided into three categories: macronutrients, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients. Macronutrients are things such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium which are critical to your plants health. Secondary nutrients include calcium and magnesium. These are needed in lesser amounts than macronutrients, yet still very important to your plant's health. Micronutrients include boron, chlorine, and iron which are just needed in small amounts.

Fertilizer is available in two types, liquid and granular. Liquid fertilizers usually come in concentrates and you mix them with water prior to application with a hose. These are quickly absorbed and are therefore fast-acting. However, they do require reapplication every 2-3 weeks.

Granular fertilizers are dry and must be watered after application. They are easier to control because you can actually see where they are being dispersed and how much of it is being dispersed. You can either apply them by hand or using a fertilizer spreader. Granular fertilizers come in two different forms, quick-release and slow-release. Quick-release fertilizer lasts about three to four weeks and slow-release lasts about 8-12 weeks, depending on if you get sulfur or polymer coated. Both can change depending on rainfall and temperature.

It can be very daunting to have to go to the store and try and read a fertilizer label. What do all those numbers mean and what kind should you get? The three numbers on the bag are called the NPK numbers and refer to the percentage amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (always in that order) occurring in the fertilizer. The rest of the fertilizer is just made up of filler. Depending on what exactly your lawn needs will depend on which numbers you get. In the case that you aren't sure, it would be best to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14.

Weed and Feed is a very common type of fertilizer used because, as the name implies, it not only feeds your grass and plants but kills the weeds that surround them. There are two types of weed and feed: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergents are weed killers that must be applied BEFORE the weeds germinate. They are useful in preventing crabgrass, a common lawn weed. Post-emergents are contact killers and are used for weeds that are already actively growing. Make sure to read the packages carefully to see which one fits your needs best.

Author Bio

Brooke Tolman

Brooke is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science. She currently resides in Seattle where she works as a freelance data analyst and personal trainer. She hopes to spend her life camping and traveling the world. ...


Using Mulch to Protect Trees

Mulch is a great way to protect your trees and make gardening a lot easier. When properly laid down, it not only shields ...

Discover More

How to Eat Healthy

Eating healthy can be rough. Use these 5 tips to help you jump start your diet and begin a healthier life. It'll increase ...

Discover More

Being Organized for Tax Time

Tax time is a stressful time for everyone. Make it a little bit less stressful by getting organized now, so when that ...

Discover More
More Gardening Tips

Do You Need Plant Food?

If your plants are not growing as well as you want to, fertilizer might be a good way to help. Start by testing the soil ...

Discover More

Choosing the Right Vegetable Fertilizer

Vegetables require certain nutrients to keep them healthy. You can buy general purpose fertilizers with mixed results, or ...

Discover More

Choosing the Right Flower Fertilizer

Flowers need different nutrients to grow, and not all of those nutrients will be found in your garden soil. You can ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three more than 1?

2013-03-05 09:20:48

Jerry Gonzales

Can you tell us which weed fertilizer is best for the San Antonio metro area and where to buy it as some of these are hard to find. Thanks!


FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)